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Art by Tony Daniel and Sandu Florea
|First appearance||Adventure Comics #283
|Created by||Robert Bernstein
|Place of origin||Krypton|
|Team affiliations||Kryptonian Military Guild
General Zod is a fictional supervillain appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics, commonly in association with Superman. The character, who first appeared in Adventure Comics #283 (April 1961), was created by Robert Bernstein and initially designed by George Papp. As a Kryptonian, he exhibits the same powers and abilities as Superman and is consequently viewed as one of his greatest enemies.
In Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980), Terence Stamp portrayed the character, which Total Film later ranked as #32 on their "Top 50 Greatest Villains Of All Time" list in 2007. Pop-culture website IGN.com ranked General Zod as #30 on their list of the "Top 100 Comic Book Villains", asserting that "Stamp is Zod" (emphasis in original). The character was played by Michael Shannon in Zack Snyder's 2013 film Man of Steel, by Callum Blue in Smallville, and by Mark Gibbon in Supergirl.
Dru-Zod is a megalomaniacal Kryptonian, in charge of the military forces on Krypton. He knew Jor-El, Superman's father, when Jor-El was an aspiring scientist. When the space program was abolished after the destruction of the inhabited moon Wegthor (engineered by renegade scientist Jax-Ur), he attempted to take over Krypton. Zod created an army of robotic duplicates of himself, all bearing a resemblance to Bizarro. He was sentenced to exile in the Phantom Zone for 40 years for his crimes. Zod was eventually released by Superman when his term of imprisonment was up. However, he attempted to conquer Earth with the superpowers his Kryptonian body acquired under the yellow sun (the source of Superman's own super-powers). With Zod's threat now obvious, Superman was forced to oppose him and ultimately returned him to the Zone.
After DC's continuity altering crossover special Crisis on Infinite Earths (1985), DC editorial maintained for a number of years that no Kryptonians were to be depicted in comics aside from Superman, to reinforce his status as the last Kryptonian. This meant that characters like Supergirl and Power Girl were reimagined and Superman's Kryptonian canine Krypto became an ordinary house pet. However, writers of DC Comics still attempted to get around the no-Kryptonians rule by introducing "new" versions of Zod. Many of these were Zods of alternate universes. None persisted in DC continuity. After publishing its sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths, Infinite Crisis (2005), DC reintroduced the real General Zod in its 2006-2008 storyline Superman: Last Son. For this, it brought on board writer Richard Donner, director of Superman, the film which introduced Zod to the moviegoing public.
The first Zod to be introduced following Crisis on Infinite Earths was the Zod of a so-called "pocket universe" resembling the universe in which the comics took place; this allowed for a "Kryptonian" Zod to be introduced while maintaining Superman's status as the last of his race in the universe proper. This Zod came from a Krypton in the pocket universe, the universe itself having been created by the Time Trapper. Zod (along with companions Quex-Ul and Zaora) devastated the Earth of that universe following the death of its Superboy, despite the best efforts of a Supergirl created by that world's heroic Lex Luthor. Eventually, the survivors of this world managed to contact the Superman of the main universe to help them, and he was able to take away the powers of the three super-criminals with only Gold Kryptonite (since he was not from that universe, the Kryptonite of that reality would have no effect on him).
However, the three vowed to some day regain their powers and return to Superman's world to kill him. Acknowledging that he could neither afford to leave them on the now-dead pocket Earth to let them die on their own nor imprison them on his world, Superman was forced to execute them with Green Kryptonite. This action caused him to question his powers and how to deal with evildoers, to the extent that an encounter with Brainiac caused Superman to manifest a more violent alter-ego in his sleep. Believing that he was becoming too dangerous to remain on Earth, Superman departed the planet for deep space to find somewhere he could live without causing further harm, until meeting with the alien Cleric who helped him accept that he had sinned in the cause of justice and his exile from Earth was doing more harm than good. This version of Zod is based closely on the Pre-Crisis version; the significant difference is he killed everyone on the pocket Earth, rather than conquering them (there was no Superboy/Superman to stop him).
A second incarnation of General Zod was introduced in the 2001 storyline "Return to Krypton"; this Zod was portrayed as that of an alternate reality that was created by the character Brainiac 13. He was the head of the Kryptonian military in the alternate reality. Like the Pre-Crisis version, Zod held the Kryptonian equivalent of fascist beliefs. He sent aliens to the bottle city of Kandor and planned a military coup. Zod was defeated by Superman and the Jor-El of Zod's alternate reality Krypton.
The third attempt to bring Zod to Modern Age comics was the "Russian" Zod, a Zod of human origin whose origin story was connected to Superman's. This General Zod is a Russian who was affected before his birth by Kryptonite radiation, since he was the son of two cosmonauts whose ship was too close to Kal-El's rocketship. This Zod is unnaturally weak under a yellow sun, but superpowered under a red sun (the opposite of Superman). After his parents died from radiation, he grew up in a KGB laboratory under the name "Zed". Apparently spoken to by the spirit of the Pocket Universe Zod, Russian Zod created a suit of red armor which filtered the sunlight, and declared himself ruler of the fictional former Soviet state of Pokolistan. After several inconclusive encounters with Superman, he revealed his long-range plan to turn the sun red and take Superman's place. This was temporarily successful until Lex Luthor rescued Superman, gave him a blast of yellow solar radiation to regain his powers, and worked to restore the sun. Superman returned to battle Zod, but refused to kill him. When the sun turned yellow again the now-vulnerable Zod struck Superman with all his power at super-speed, but was killed due to Superman's invulnerability.
The final Zod before the character was finally reintroduced, the Zod of an alternate Phantom Zone appeared in the twelve-issue For Tomorrow storyline, written by Brian Azzarello and penciled by Jim Lee. This Zod lives alone in an alternate Phantom Zone and resents Superman for tampering with it. By his own account he comes from the same Krypton as Superman and was exiled to the Phantom Zone by Superman's father, Jor-El. This Zod wears large, spiked black armor and when unmasked, is a bald, white-bearded old man. This incarnation also uses a variation of "Kneel before Zod". He appeared in Metropia, a version of the Phantom Zone created by Superman to resemble a living world (including apparently-living beings). However, whether or not this was the real Zod of the pre-Infinite Crisis DC Universe, he has been superseded by the present storyline (which features a new Zod, freed from the Phantom Zone).
General Zod appeared in the Superman: Last Son storyline (written by Geoff Johns and Richard Donner, the director of Superman: The Movie and most of Superman II). In a similar story to that of Superman II, Zod, Ursa, and Non escape from the Phantom Zone and come to Earth to try to turn it into a "New Krypton". This incarnation is the first Post-Crisis Zod who came from Superman's Krypton, and not from an alternate reality.
The backstory for the three Kryptonians was recounted in Action Comics Annual #10 (April 2007), and Zod's origin was revealed in Countdown #30 (October 2007). Prior to the destruction of Krypton, Zod, his wife Ursa, and accomplice Non rebelled against their planet's oppressive government, but soon became lawless would-be tyrants who lusted for power. After an ill-fated insurrection led by Zod, the government sentenced the trio to death. However, Superman's father Jor-El pleaded for the government to mitigate their sentence to imprisonment in the Phantom Zone, accepted on the condition that he would assume responsibility as their jailer. While in the Phantom Zone, Zod and Ursa were able to have a child who was born immune to the Phantom Zone's effects, ultimately facilitating their escape, and named him Lor-Zod. On Earth, the boy was discovered by Superman and his wife Lois Lane, who adopted him as their own son and named him Christopher Kent. For the duration of 2007's "Last Son" storyline in Action Comics, Chris Kent is depicted as an adopted son of Superman and his wife Lois across DC titles.
Alongside Zod, Ursa and Non, 25 other Kryptonian criminals also escape the Zone and defeat a number of Earth's heroes, beginning their quest to conquer the planet. Zod ambushes Superman in revenge for Jor-El's actions and traps him in the Phantom Zone, which he later escapes the help of the heroic Phantom Zone prisoner Mon-El. With assistance from his traditional enemies Lex Luthor, Metallo, Parasite and Bizarro, Superman takes on Zod's army. Out of nearly thirty Kryptonians, Superman's temporary allies successfully kill several, driving the rest back into the Phantom Zone alongside Zod and Ursa, who take Chris Kent with them.
In the later "New Krypton" arc storyline however, Zod is freed from the Phantom Zone once again by Supergirl's mother Alura. The "bottled city of Kandor" is transformed into a populated Kryptonian planet ("New Krypton"), and Zod is appointed the leader of its army. In the "World of New Krypton" Action Comics storyline, when Superman decides to see what life is like on New Krypton, he is drafted into the Military Guild under General Zod. Zod and Superman maintain a mistrustful professional relationship. Despite their past, neither seems prepared to behave with marked aggression toward the other. Later, during a Kryptonian ceremony, Zod is shot by the Kryptonian Ral-Dar (who is working with Lois's father General Sam Lane), leading Zod to appoint Superman as temporary General until his recovery. The two are involved in a Kryptonian political plot, but ultimately apprehend the planet's traitor and see a reform of New Krypton's Council.
Peace is short-lived, however, due to an attack by the alien Brainiac, who had been responsible for the bottling of Kandor in the first place. In "Last Stand of New Krypton", New Krypton comes under attack by Brainiac, and Zod engineers a plan to defeat him; Zod is driven by an urge to avenge his prior defeat at the hands of the Coluan Brainiac, when Kandor was bottled from Old Krypton. The storyline ends with the planet's destruction, leading Zod to declare war on Earth, sparking the "War of the Supermen" storyline. After a fierce conflict between Superman and Zod in defence of Earth, Zod is pushed back into the Phantom Zone by his son, Chris Kent, who had freed himself from the Phantom Zone and became active as an adult superhero on planet Earth.
In 2011, DC chose to revamp its continuity, rebooting many characters while retaining the histories for some others, as part of its The New 52 publishing event. Following this, Zod is hinted at several times. A character resembling Zod made a cameo in Action Comics #5 (March 2012), as a prisoner in the Phantom Zone; in Action Comics #13 (December 2012) a ghost in the Phantom Zone says "Kneel before..." multiple times while attacking Superman, a reference to Zod's iconic saying. Zod makes his first full appearance in Action Comics #23.2: General Zod (September 2013), written by Greg Pak, with art by Ken Lashley.
A new origin for Zod was introduced. Zod was born to scientist parents. When he was a young boy, Zod and his parents traveled to Krypton's wilderness in order to discover new creatures. Their ship was attacked by creatures, leaving the family stranded in the jungle. While his parents were killed by the animals, Zod managed to survive for one year until Jor-El and his older brother Zor-El saved him. After reaching adulthood, Zod became one of Krypton's best soldiers, attaining the rank of general. Zod developed a hatred towards an alien species called the Char and secretly ordered the creation of a Char-looking creature, unleashing it on Krypton's population, so he could justify a war against the Char. Jor-El discovered the deception and turned Zod over to the authorities. The council found Zod guilty of treason and banished him and his closest followers, Faora and Non, to the Phantom Zone.
Many years later, a mysterious event caused the Phantom Zone to weaken, allowing some of its prisoners to escape into normal space. Zod traveled to Earth, landing in the Sahara Desert. There, Zod's Kryptonian powers began to manifest for the first time, brutally slaughtering a group of travelers. Zod was soon attacked by the Justice League of America until Superman and Wonder Woman arrived, the latter restraining him with her magic lasso. Zod recognized Superman as Kal-El, the son of Jor-El. Superman decided to keep Zod in the Fortress of Solitude's alien zoo. While there, he reveals to Superman that Faora also traveled to Earth with him, and vows to track her down.
Once again imprisoned within the Phantom Zone as part of the DC Rebirth relaunch, Zod was trapped within the boundaries of the Black Vault, a secret facility hidden in the Laptev Sea. Amanda Waller sent the Suicide Squad to steal the contents of the Black Vault and bring them back to her; however, in unlocking the previously hermetically sealed area, they unwillingly allowed Zod to tear open the now unstable link between Earth and the Phantom Zone and once again break free.
Like all Kryptonians under a yellow sun, General Zod possesses high-level superhuman strength, speed and endurance sufficient to stand against Superman and other Kryptonians; super hearing; x-ray vision; telescopic, microscopic and heat vision; super-breath and freeze-breath; virtual invulnerability; accelerated healing and flight. Due to his background as a Kryptonian general, Zod possesses a detailed knowledge of military tactics, battle strategy, and is a relatively competent military leader. Because he was trained in fighting arts long before receiving his abilities, he typically has an edge over Superman's brawling skills, over-reliance on superhuman strength, and basic knowledge of advanced human and Kryptonian hand-to-hand combat.
Despite these advantages over Superman, Zod's main weakness is shown to be his arrogance and overestimation of his abilities. Not only does he underestimate Superman's other allies, but he also lacks the ability to acknowledge his mistakes due to his megalomania. When Zod originally escaped the Phantom Zone in the post-Crisis continuity, he proclaimed that he could have saved Krypton if his plan to kill the Council had succeeded; Superman's rational argument was that nobody on Krypton would have followed Zod, also drawing attention to Zod's inability to explain exactly what he would have done to avert Krypton's destruction, with Zod's only response being to reiterate his belief in his own success rather than provide any kind of counter to Superman's claims.
In addition, Zod's powers are often inferior to those of Superman, due to the latter being exposed to the yellow sun over the course of his entire life, while Zod typically only gets exposed for a short period of time before being defeated and returned to the Phantom Zone. This greater power combined with his superior control and experience with it gives Superman an edge over Zod's superior fighting skills. Additionally, similar to Superman, his strength is inferior to the likes of Doomsday and his speed is inferior to Speedsters such as the Flash. Like all Kryptonians, he is vulnerable to Kryptonite and red solar radiation; his durability does not provide protection from mind control and magic; and his strength and durability both have limits in that he cannot survive an atomic explosion without nearly fatal injuries and there are weights he cannot lift due to natural bodily limitation even under the empowering environment of a yellow sun as well as normal limits of adult Kryptonian superhuman strength.
In the novel The Last Days of Krypton (by Kevin J. Anderson, ISBN 0-06-134074-X), General Zod (also known as Commissioner Dru-Zod) is the son of Cor-Zod (former head of the Kryptonian Council). Initially a middle-level bureaucrat, he takes advantage of a major planetary cataclysm and the apparent decapitation of the government to seize absolute power as a military despot. He is ultimately overthrown by a resistance movement led by scientist Jor-El and his brother, civic leader Zor-El. They had formerly worked with Zod until his ambitions and misuse of Jor-El's Rao Beam and Phantom Zone, showed them his true nature and turned them against him. He and his two henchmen are banished forever to the Phantom Zone. The reactionary Council, however, decide to make sure Zod can never be released, and, in doing so snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. What the comet, pressures building up within Krypton and Rao's increasing instability fail to accomplish, is ironically achieved by the actions of Krypton's Council out of an irrational fear that Jor-El might free Zod and his minions.
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